Ekkehardt Mueller, ThD, DMin, is a retired associate director of the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, MD, USA.

Although some obituaries claim that God has taken a loved one into a better world, others do not reflect any hope. Nevertheless, all of them remind us that one day it will be our turn.

A kind of obituary is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3– 8. It contains four statements: (1) Christ has died, (2) Christ was buried, (3) Christ arose from the dead, and (4) Christ appeared to different persons. Jesus Christ, our Creator and Savior, knows exactly what happens when humans die. In addition, He has experienced death Himself, and through the Bible He can give us important information about this topic.


God’s statement (Gen 2:17): The possibility that death may become a reality is introduced. Satan’s statement (Gen 3:4): Immortality is part of humanity.

After the fall, death became the bitter reality affecting all human beings (Rom 6:23).


1. Death in the Old Testament

Genesis 2:7 states that God gave life to the body that He shaped from the dust of the ground and that up to that time was without life (dust + life = a living being). If God withdraws life, the former state—earth, dust—is found again (cf. Eccl 3:19–20).

In death, there is no activity. The deceased have no consciousness (Eccl 9:5–6, 10).

Death is compared to sleep, which seems to imply: (1) It is a state of unconsciousness. The dead are “sleeping” in the earth. (2) There will be an awakening (Dan 12:2, 13).

2. Death and Jesus

In 1 Corinthians 15:3–4, 20, Jesus is called the “first fruit” or the “first of those who are asleep.” As such, Jesus also “slept” when He was dead. After His crucifixion, He did not go directly to the Father, but rested in the tomb until His resurrection (John 20:17).

3. Death in the New Testament

  • The dead are in the grave (John 5:28–29).
  • David, a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22), rests in the tomb and is not with God (Acts 2:29, 34).
  • Where Jesus is, His disciples cannot come immediately (John 7:33–34; 13:33).

The Old Testament, the New Testament, as well as Jesus’ own experience suggest that death is an unconscious state called “sleep” (see also John 11).


There is a resurrection. Believers will receive a new body. However, we have no detailed information about what this body will be like. A writer once compared the old body to coal and the new body to a marvelous diamond; both consist of carbon, and yet they are so different from each other (1 Cor 15:42–44).

  • A child of God expects the resurrection (1 Cor 15:22–23).
  • Jesus has prepared dwelling places for His people that they will inhabit after His second coming (John 14:1–3).
  • Finally, death will be done away with. Death will be the end only if my life does not belong to God (Rev 21:4).


We are preparing (Ps 90:12). We get our priorities straight. Important things must remain important.

In ancient Thessalonica, two inscriptions were found that obviously come from the same period. One says, “No hope.” The other one reads, “Christ is my life.” Two inscriptions and two different philosophies of life: resignation and assurance. What about your life?

Ekkehardt Mueller is Associate Director for the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. This article has been reprinted, by permission, from Reflections, the BRI newsletter